Nepal's government and communist rebels are set to restart stalled peace talks in the coming week in efforts to end a decade-long insurgency in the Himalayan nation, officials said on Monday.
At a preliminary meeting on Sunday in the capital Kathmandu, Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala met Maoist rebel leader Prachanda and the two agreed to resume the negotiations, Home Minister Krishna Sitaula said.
The leaders were able to clear up differences that threatened to prevent the talks from going ahead, he said.
"Much of the confusion that clouded the peace process has been wiped out and we expect the peace talks to resume in the next few days," Sitaula said on Monday.
Sitaula, who heads the government peace talks team, said the proposed meeting between top rebel leaders and leaders of Nepal's seven-party ruling coalition would be held before next week's annual Dasain festival.
The proposed meeting would tackle a number of key issues of contention -- including the disposition of the rebels' large weapons cache, the drafting of a new national constitution and how the Maoists' might join an interim government, he said.
The rebels also said they were optimistic about the peace process taking shape.
"The atmosphere has been created to resume the peace talks with expectations that there will some concrete moves made before the festivals," Maoist spokesman Krishna Mahara said.
The government and rebels declared a cease-fire and began peace talks in April aimed at permanently ending the Maoists' 10-year insurgency.
Recently there has been a bitter exchange of words between the two sides, with each blaming the other for delays in talks and for violating the terms of the ceasefire.
The main difference has been the issue of weapons held by the rebels.
The government wants the rebels to give up their arms before they join the interim government, but the rebels are not willing to part with their guns.
Last month, the two sides agreed to restrict their fighters to their camps and lock up their weapons, although there is little evidence that either side has acted on this pledge.
Some peace has been restored in Nepal after years of fighting between communist rebels and government troops which claimed more than 13,000 lives.